Enron jurors retire to consider Skilling and Lay verdicts

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The Independent Online

The fates of the former Enron bosses Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling lie in the hands of a Texan jury after lawyers wrapped up their final arguments in the 14-week fraud trial.

Both declared themselves confident they will be found not guilty of conspiracy, insider dealing and lying to Wall Street over the implosion of the energy trading company in 2001.

The defence team insists the two are the subject of a government vendetta and that the prosecution is trying to criminalise normal business practice.

But a bullish prosecution case was concluded yesterday by Sean Berkowitz, head of the Department of Justice's Enron Task Force, which has been pursuing fraud at Enron for more than four years. "They lied to their investors," he said. "They omitted critical facts, and at key times they put their own interests above those of their shareholders. And they lied, ladies and gentlemen, from the stand."

Both sides have been conscious that the jury's views could turn on personal factors, including the performances of the defendants in the witness box. In a reversal of expectations, the aggressive Mr Skilling cut a humble figure, while Mr Lay was frequently described as testy and arrogant.

In a new posting on his website, Mr Lay lambasts the prosecution for failing to present written evidence that he misled Wall Street, or expert witnesses to testify that Enron's accounting schemes were improper

"I have read that some people were surprised by my forcefulness when I testified on my own behalf. I will continue to forcefully defend myself against all false accusations as I proclaim my innocence of the crimes of which I have been accused," Mr Lay said. He denies six charges in the case to Mr Skilling's 28 charges.